The prime minister and tech secretary have announced an artificial intelligence taskforce backed by £100m in government funding to “accelerate” the UK’s generative AI sector and keep pace with rapid advances in technologies like ChatGPT.
Announced at Business Connect, the new funding will be in addition to the £900m already announced at the budget to support compute infrastructure in the UK.
The new AI taskforce, following a similar model to the Covid Vaccine Taskforce, will attempt to keep the UK competitive as the US and China continue to invest considerably larger sums into developing AI models.
“Harnessing the potential of AI provides enormous opportunities to grow our economy, create better-paid jobs, and build a better future through advances in healthcare and security,” said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
“By investing in emerging technologies through our new expert taskforce, we can continue to lead the way in developing safe and trustworthy AI as part of shaping a more innovative UK economy.”
The taskforce will also ensure the adoption of AI is safe and reliable, as part of the wider goals of establishing the UK as a modern “science and technology superpower”.
The government believes AI will contribute hundreds of billions to the UK economy and has named it a key priority area.
The Foundation Model Taskforce will invest the funding in foundation model infrastructure and public service procurement, the government said. It will report directly to both Sunak and the tech secretary.
Foundation models are a type of neural network trained on large volumes of data. They are capable of generating text, video, images and audio based on user prompts.
“Developed responsibly, cutting-edge AI can have a transformative impact in nearly every industry. It can revolutionise the way we develop new medical treatments, tackle climate change and improve our public services, all while growing and future-proofing our economy,” said Michelle Donelan, secretary of state for science, innovation, and technology.
“We need to act now to seize the opportunities AI can offer us in the future. We’re backing our expert taskforce with the funding to make our ambitions for an AI-enabled country a reality and keep the UK at the front of the pack in this emerging technology.”
The announcement follows the release of the AI regulatory white paper in March.
Earlier this month, tech leaders including Elon Musk signed an open letter calling for a pause on developing powerful AI models, citing “risks to society”. Italy became the first Western country to ban ChatGPT over data privacy concerns. OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, said it complies with privacy laws.
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